Radio Interview - 2CC Canberra Live - 03 August 2021

Radio Interview - 2CC Canberra Live - 03 August 2021 Main Image

03 August 2021


Topics discussed: Proposed $300 incentive to fully-vaccinate Australians; the impact of the NSW COVID-19 lockdown; housing affordability.

LEON DELANEY: Well, good afternoon and how the devil are you? Great to have you along today, Leon Delaney here with you. It's Canberra Live on 2CC and it's your chance to have your say. Any time you feel like having a whinge, just pick up the phone 6255 1206. I'll listen when others won't. Send a text, if you like 0488266266 or email, go to the 2CC website, that's and click on the feedback icon and you can take your time there to compose your email. I won't necessarily read it, but you can take your time and compose it anyway. It's about seven past five. The federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese has come up with another one of his crackerjack ideas. Yes, he wants to give everybody 300 dollars cash bonus after they get their second vaccine shot. Whether it's Pfizer, AstraZeneca, doesn't matter. If you get your second shot, you get 300 dollars cash. Doesn't matter if you're a multi-millionaire, you still get three hundred dollars cash. The one point he has made, which is, well, it's kind of valid. If you give everybody cash at the beginning of December, they're likely to spend it in the lead up to Christmas---and it could well be a bit of a boost for struggling businesses and a bit of a bit of a support for the economy at a time when it really does need some help. That's about the only point where I think he's on to something. But as for the rest of it, do we need 300 dollars to go and get vaccinated? Most of us will do it because we want to get vaccinated. Joining me now, the federal member for Bean, it's David Smith. Good afternoon.

DAVID SMITH MP, LABOR MEMBER FOR BEAN: Good afternoon, Leon, how are you?

DELANEY: Really well, thanks for joining us today. So, 300 dollars for everybody, even if they're super rich. Do ... they don't need the extra money, do they?

SMITH: Well look, Leon, if they want to make a donation to charity, there are many good charities around. I'm not necessarily pointing to the CEO of Harvey Norman. I think in the end there's a reason why almost half of Australia has been in lockdown over the last four to six weeks. Our rate of vaccination, while it's improving, is still incredibly low. So effectively, we think this is an idea that can actually help. It might be something that really gets us from a 60 per cent to an 80 per cent level. But at the same time, it does actually put money back into the economy.

DELANEY: Yeah. That part I can agree with. But just before we get onto that, this idea that offering a cash incentive is going to help improve the vaccination rate, aren't you the crowd that keep on saying the Prime Minister had two jobs, quarantine and vaccine rollout, and he's failed on them both. It doesn't matter how enthusiastic we are about getting a vaccine. It doesn't matter what the incentive is to get a vaccine. We need the supply to be fixed, don't you? Don't we?

SMITH: Certainly, the main problem has been supply. As we see more supply come in, Leon, I think it's actually important that we get as many people to get vaccinated quickly. But you're right about supply. I'm not sure if you caught Question Time today, but one of the issues up in New South Wales at the moment—

DELANEY: I'm afraid I work for a living, mate.

SMITH: Well students are getting vaccines that were diverted from, amongst other things ... teachers. So we do have some crazy issues to still sort out in terms of supply. But I think we can still see this as being something that might get people over the edge when we do sort through those supply issues a bit later this year.

DELANEY: Okay. Now the one part I can agree with, as I said, the cash incentive, if people are given cash, they are likely to spend it—and in the lead up to Christmas especially, that'll be the case and that's part of the plan, isn't it? This is meant to be not only an incentive to get vaccinated, but also a bit of a boost, a shot in the arm, if you'll forgive the expression, for the economy.

SMITH: Absolutely right and many people don't necessarily understand this Leon, but you know that many businesses in Canberra, particularly in accommodation and hospitality, are being incredibly impacted upon by the New South Wales lockdown.

DELANEY: Oh, absolutely. It's been huge. Here we are in Canberra living the good life, but we can't welcome any visitors.

SMITH: That's right. So you look at the flow on impact to jobs. So we're seeing there are some parts of the ACT economy where with all the people losing work, they're losing pay and of course, businesses that are striving to stay viable. I wrote to the Treasurer last week suggesting that it's important that we actually support businesses affected by lockdowns, whether they're in red zones or not. You'd also realise this Leon, but I've got responsibility for Norfolk Island and this has just wiped out their tourism industry pretty much for the next month and a half.

DELANEY: Yeah, I hadn't even thought about that, but yeah, but it's not good for people in that situation at all. Obviously, we want to do what we can to help the local hospitality and tourism sectors as much as we can. We've had a bit of a problem today with Qantas announcing that they're going to stand down two and a half thousand people. At the same time, the financial assistance package that has been put forward by the government, has been criticised as being too selective and insufficient, inadequate because it only provides support for some employees, not all employees. Specifically, it helps air crew, but not ground crew. And I spoke to Klaus Pinkas from the Transport Workers Union about that. You know, this is obviously affecting people here in Canberra as well as right around Australia. That's a bit of an oversight by the government there, isn't it? Helping out half the staff?

SMITH: Oh, completely right and there's some pretty cynical timing too, Leon, in that we've just had a court case settled in relation to some of the attempts to outsource much of the Qantas workforce last year when we obviously saw substantial support, rightly going to the aviation industry, but at the same time, they took that opportunity to outsource critical parts of their work, including that ground support work. The obvious issue, though, and the consequence of these challenges with the vaccine rollout and the problems that have flowed out of quarantine, have been these lockdowns, which again, has particularly affected the whole aviation sector.

DELANEY: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely slammed it. Now, also on a different topic, it is Homelessness Week this week and you've jumped up on your bandwagon here too of course. The need for social housing is one of the things that we keep hearing about but governments at every level seem to be reluctant to actually deliver what's needed.

SMITH: That's right, Leon, and I guess firstly a little bit of a shout out to Vinnies and the many different advocacy groups that do a great job in shining a light on what is a real social disaster across Australia in terms of the real shortfalls in social and public housing. We can see the impact in Canberra in terms of affordability of housing with the record prices—

DELANEY: The way things are going, even people with full-time jobs can't afford a house.

SMITH: It's pretty extraordinary and one of the real gaps — and I can remember coming in 2018 into the Senate and Doug Cameron was doing good work on this — but one of the issues is that we haven't had a proper national housing strategy really for a decade and it is something that Jason Clare, my colleague, has put together—some really impressive work. But the reality is there is much more work, even beyond this, that the starting point is we need to build substantially more social housing properties right across the country because the challenge is national. We can't leave it at that. We actually have to put money into the repair and maintenance of the housing in those stocks anyway, because there's so much of that stock—and we sometimes see this in Canberra too—that becomes unavailable because of not being able to pay those maintenance costs. At the same time there needs to be work in terms of supporting affordable housing for many of our workers who otherwise have to travel substantial distances; they can't actually live near where they deliver services. One of the problems with the outbreaks that we're seeing in Sydney and possibly to the extent in Melbourne as well, is you've got workers that have to travel right across the city to get to work. It's not a surprise they come in contact with hundreds of other people at the same time.

DELANEY: Indeed. Thanks very much for chatting with us today.